AC KILKENNY held their nerve and made sure their season ended with a silver lining. They beat Newpark United 4-3 on penalties after the sides ended level at 3-3 at the end of normal time.
Joe Greene’s team got the better of their city rivals Newpark United as they picked up the Division One Cup in Derdimus on Sunday, but not before getting a few scares.
Three times they had the lead in 90 minutes and three times they were hauled back by Newpark. They also had their keeper to thank, as they were within one kick of ending an entertaining day empty-handed.
John Dumecz had the chance to seal the title for Newpark when, at 3-2, he stepped up to United’s fifth kick. Dumecz scored the spot kick that sealed the city side’s place in the McCalmont Cup but couldn’t repeat the feat here, as Michael Lambert went full stretch to his right to push the ball to safety.
The pressure was on Chris Dawson, but he made it look effortless, drilling his penalty low and to the right to send the game to sudden death. Lambert was the hero again here, stopping Eamon Conway’s kick, before Stephen Hayes stepped up to steer his kick to the bottom left corner, which just beat the hand of Bobby Maher.
Full of confidence
Faced with the prospect of two finals in seven days Newpark went into the game full of confidence. Led by Sammy Johnston, Kevin Morrissey and Shane O’Neill they fizzed about in the opening stages, but couldn’t convert it into shots on target.
It wasn’t until the 19th minute that they worked Lambert, the netminder doing well to tame Kevin Morrissey’s swerving shot from the edge of the box.
United kept looking for a way through, but despite their best efforts the opening goal wasn’t there. Eamon Conway had a chance when a loose ball fell into his path on 22 minutes, but his tame shot didn’t trouble Lambert. Full-back Gerry O’Brien went close a few minutes later when he steamed into the box to meet Tommy Donovan’s low cross, but he clipped his sidefoot shot wide of the target.
AC Kilkenny might have been under the cosh, but began to work their way back into the game. Karl Jenkins was played through by James Geoghegan but blasted over from the right of the box, while Warren Kavanagh’s long range 35th minute strike sailed over Bobby Maher’s crossbar.
Both sides were getting closer to scoring, but it was AC who broke the deadlock five minutes from half-time.
Ian Ryan created the break with a long throw-in down the right flank. Geoghegan had time to look up and float in a high cross, where Jenkins beat Maher to the punch and turned the ball home.
Newpark were stung by that, but had to wait until the second half to make their comeback. Sean Falsey did just that, pouncing after Lambert’s attempted punch clear bounced off Shane O’Neill and fell into his path six yards out.
AC Kilkenny replied nine minutes later - and in stunning style. There seemed to be little danger when Ryan came up from the defence to take a free-kick midway between the half-way line and the box, but he let fly with a stunner. The ball left his foot like a rocket, screaming into the top left corner of the net.
Little did the crowd know it, but the game was about to go on a crazy spell where the sides grabbed three goals from three frees in as many minutes.
It was 2-2 on 67 minutes when Kevin Morrissey delivered a free from the left. Falsey flicked it on, with Ray Meagher getting the final touch to level the game.
The AC riposte came 60 seconds later. Gary Duffy curled in a free from the left, his skipper John McCormack beating a static Newpark defence to flick a header inside the far post.
The lead was shortlived as Newpark equalised for the third time one minute later. Again Morrissey was the provider from a free, this time from the right. The ball was whipped towards the back post, where Eamon Conway stooped to head it past Lambert.
If AC Kilkenny were stung by that goal they didn’t show it. Instead, they almost added another spectacular goal to their tally when Gary Duffy lashed a fierce drive towards the top right corner of the Newpark net, but Bobby Maher made a super save, diving across his goal to palm the ball over the bar.
The sides pushed on for a winner, with Newpark going closest in extra-time. Shane O’Neill looked certain to score when he skipped inside Ian Ryan but he opted to cross instead of shoot - the 96th minute chance went abegging.
After that it was left to the drama of penalties. The sides were deadlocked at 2-2, but Newpark took what looked to be a decisive step when Maher got his foot to Ian Ryan’s kick and kept it out.
At 3-2 the advantage was theirs, but Tommy Denieffe saw his spot kick cannon back off the bottom of the right post with Lambert beaten. Maher did well to beat out Gary Duffy’s kick after that, but Newpark couldn’t close the game out.
Two more Lambert saves, coupled with Hayes’s cool kick, and AC had their title.
AC Kilkenny A: Michael Lambert, Adam Barry, Stephen Hayes, Ian Ryan, Chris Dawson, Mark Massey (Jason Delaney, 82 mins), Gary Duffy, Warren Kavanagh, James Geoghegan, Karl Jenkins, John McCormack.
Newpark United A: Bobby Maher, Sammy Johnston (Richie Drennan, 88 mins), Gerry O’Brien (Benny Hanniffy, 76 mins), Ger Hayes, Ray Meagher, John Dumecz, Kevin Morrissey, Tommy Donovan, Eamon Conway, Shane O’Neill, Sean Falsey (Tommy Denieffe, 76 mins).
Referee: Pat O’Connor. Linesmen: Tom Walsh, Larry Buggy.